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Gone for Hours

by Rick Rose

The first thing I saw when I woke - her face on the pillow next to me with eyes unblinking. The second thing I saw was the spongy dark puddle under her neck. Blood covered everything. What happened? What have I done to Chris? There was a dim recollection of scotch filled snifters and an argument. But we never have mean fights. I felt for a pulse I knew wouldn’t be there.

I let my gaze drift across her face, over the blood spattered blonde hair, to see red numbers on the bedside clock radio silently announcing 4:32 a.m. When had we gone to bed? We’d closed Mahoney’s Pub listening to Sinatra sing “Strangers in the Night.” The owner thought it was a hoot to watch the Two-O’clock-Shuffle to the same song every night.

Two hours ago Chris was my wild little drinking buddy with benefits. Now she was becoming a memory. We’d walked the five blocks to her father’s guesthouse in Santa Monica. Slowly the smells began to waltz into my senses - a mélange of booze, L’Air du Temps and the bodily fluids her muscles no longer held in check.

The smells woke me. The blood on the pillow, still moist and tacky, had that eerie deep scarlet tone that looks like motor oil in photos. “Oh, Chrissy,” I said to no one. Her slender fingers would never touch the keys of her Steinway again. She’d never do anything again.

I silently slipped out of the bed but didn’t turn on the light. I was still in my clothes, so we hadn’t consummated. The house seemed to breathe for Chris in tiny creaks and groans, settling the way old houses do. My first pass through the bedroom revealed nothing but locked windows and Chris’s random piles of clutter. I peeked into the living room and saw the front door chained. I confirmed it was locked. Unless someone was hiding behind the refrigerator, the kitchen was empty.

As I crept toward the bathroom I noticed my service revolver in my hand. When had I taken that out? I rolled low across the floor into the bathroom, pointing my gun into the shower and heard the door bang against the wall behind me. Nothing moved. I slid the curtain back and looked into the empty shower. The only unexplored place was the bedroom closet. I couldn’t imagine anyone hiding in there but crooks do peculiar things.

I moved quickly into the bedroom, turning on the light for the first time. I opened one side of the mirrored door, then slid it to reveal the other side. No one hid there. We were alone in the house and the safety chain was on the front door. That only left two options. But could I have killed Chris, of all people?

Turning back to her body I saw the broken snifter on the floor next to the Mozart statue her dad had given her. I moved back to my side of the bed and looked again at her neck. The shard of the snifter jutted straight out of her neck, dark red with her blood, at the carotid artery.

I imagined the blood squirting out of her in lethal arcs. She may have had only the briefest moment to help herself. She may have been unconscious through the whole thing. Or this may have been her last act. Had she done this to herself? If so, why? And why with me next to her?

As I reached for the telephone I felt the ground undulate beneath me, two feet to the left then two feet back to the right. A minor earthquake like this usually went unnoticed in LA. Then I saw how Chris had died. An earlier quake, probably larger, had knocked the bookend off the shelf and shattered the snifter, driving a deadly sliver into my pal’s tender flesh. We’d been too drunk to react and she’d bled to death.

“911 operator. What is the nature of your emergency?”

“Officer Tippett, badge 5446, reporting an accidental death. No need for an ambulance, she’s been gone for hours.”

Copyright © 2006 by Rick Rose

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